Interlude-Aunt Lena

Lena Suderman was our maiden aunt who lived with Grandma.  We often wondered why no suitor came to claim this gracious lady.  Her baking was perfection, her brown eyes sparkled, and she kept Grandma’s house gleaming with a newly-varnished shine.At thirty-six, a ruggedly handsome widower, Cornelius Epp, came calling.  Surely, she would not marry this man with eleven children!  She did.  Our Aunt Lena moved to Fairview, Oklahoma.  How would she cope with all these children?When Uncle Nick’s Jacob married Aunt Lena’s Sarah, a bevy of Suderman cousins descended on the Epps.  In a shining house, bulging with guests, our efficient Aunt Lena moved about like a queen and answered many calls for ‘mama’ from children of all ages.  We heard love and respect flowing both ways.  But the real answer to ‘how she coped with children’ came through little Albert.  This little tow-head had a problem.  He rushed through the door, stopped short with searching eyes, and found his target.  He expertly ran about seated guests until he reached his Mama.  Aunt Lena bent down with arms outstretched.  With heads together, they solved his problem.  She ruled this house with loving care.On that same moonlit night a circle of cousins visited out in the yard.  Our cousin, J.E., always ready with words, said, “Isn’t Aunt Lena something!  Everything in place and kids love her.  And look at this yard!  I don’t have to…but if I had to…this yard is so clean, I couldn’t even spit on it, if I had to…”Uncle Cornelius Epp died in a car accident when Albert was eighteen.  He and Aunt Lena stayed on the farm.  When Albert married, she moved to Hillsboro.  Her brother Henry, a widower, roomed and boarded with her until a widower from Texas came looking for a wife.Uncle Henry Flaming, a minister-farmer at Corn, Oklahoma, for many years, also had eleven children.  However, they were all married with children of their own.  In 1940, Aunt Lena married again and moved to Premont, Texas.  They soon moved back to Hillsboro.One morning our Papa stopped at the Flamings on his way to town.  He found Uncle Flaming busily washing kitchen chairs at the back door.“Is that necessary, Henry?” Papa asked.  Henry smiled to say, “My Lena does many things she’ll never get paid for and I help her.”  He finished the chairs while visiting.  They stood gleaming white in the morning sun.When Aunt Lena’s health failed, they moved to the “home for the Aged” at Corn. On one of Mama’s annual spring visits she asked, “Could we visit Aunt Lena once more?”  We drove to Corn.Mama sat beside Lena’s bed and bent low to hear her.  Uncle Henry entertained me – showing me the convenience of their room, family pictures, and newspaper articles of his grandchildren’s accomplishments.  He insisted I sit in his chair.He stood before me stroking his snowy Van dyke beard – tall and slightly stooped – to say, “People told me it wouldn’t pay….it wouldn’t pay.  But if has paid. Lena and I have been married over twenty good years.In 1963, we drove to Corn for Aunt Lena’s funeral. The entire central section of that large M. B. church was reserved for her children.  The minister closed the service with this statement.  “This lovely woman never bore a child, but twenty-two children called her Mother.”  Aunt Lena sleeps in the Corn cemetery near her older sister, Mary.We always remember our quiet efficient Aunt Lena who varnished her life to a lovely high gleam.